After dust and debris, Chintels Paradiso residents fight uncertainty

ByLeena Dhankhar and Abhishek Behl
Feb 11, 2023 02:16 PM IST

The incident rendered 36 families homeless as they were forced to evacuate Tower D for fear of the building collapsing completely

For the past year, residents of Chintels Paradiso society in Sector 109 have been haunted by the memory of the dust, debris and chaos that ensued when six floors of Tower D partially collapsed on February 10, killing two of their neighbours.

Residents of Chintels Paradiso protest against the evaluation report in Gurugram. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo) PREMIUM
Residents of Chintels Paradiso protest against the evaluation report in Gurugram. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)

The incident rendered 36 families homeless as they were forced to evacuate Tower D for fear of the building collapsing completely. Some found refuge with neighbours, some left for their relatives’ houses, and some found alternate accommodation nearby. All of them, however, have been demanding justice, compensation, and an end to their yearlong misery.

Vijay Mahanoori, a retiredbank manager who migrated from Jammu & Kashmir in the 1990s, said the collapse of the tower was akin to becoming homeless again.

“I was not at home when the incident took place. My children, who were at home, managed to get out of the tower and call me. I was shocked. I can’t forget the terror I felt at the time. I somehow returned to find the entire condominium in chaos and police and rescue teams milling about,” he said.

Mahanoori said that initially his family thought it was an earthquake but when they looked out and saw a large ball of dust surround their building, they panicked and rushed outside. “My family has been stressed since the incident. We stayed with our neighbours for four days in the same clothes. We are trying to forget it but everyday we see Tower D and it reminds us of the tragedy,” he said.

Four days after the incident, the Mahanoori family managed to get the bare essentials out of their flat.

“We were given a bare shell of a flat and have been living there since. I had spent lakhs on building the interiors of my house but now everything has gone to waste,” he said, adding that he had taken loans, and invested all his retirement money in this property.

On February 10, 2022, two women were killed after six floors of Tower D in Chintels Paradiso, Sector 109, collapsed partially on February 10 last year. According to the district administration, repair work was in progress in the living room of the a flat on the sixth floor, when its roof collapsed, leading to all the floors underneath it caving in. The incident led to major protests by residents across the city, prompting the state government to register cases against the developer, and form a district investigation committee to probe the matter. Following the incident--one of the worst urban disasters in Gurugram, which is dotted with condos and multi-storied flats--the state government ordered the structural audit of 60 condominiums in the city.

The incident has scarred Vijay Kumar Grover, who owned a flat in Tower D, and his 92-year-old mother, who were home at the time. “I shudder when I recall the incident. The aftermath has been even more appalling as we have had no closure even after one year. Our homes are stuck, the compensation is not yet decided, and the inquiry is still pending. Our future is bleak,” he said.

Grover recalled he was standing on the balcony of his 16th floor flat when the earth began to shake, and he saw a huge amount of dust and smoke around the building. “Within a few minutes, my son, who had gone out, called us and asked us to evacuate as the building was collapsing,” he said.

Grover, who had recently had a liver transplant at the time, said that he managed to seat his mother in a wheelchair and rushed outside along with their domestic help. “There were loud noises, and people were crying. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it out alive. When I reached the ground floor, I just went numb. I spotted several policemen and firemen trying to pull people out of the debris. It was horrifying,” he said, adding that the incident caused his family untold emotional and financial loss.

Grover said his family has felt like refugees since then. They lost almost all their worldly possessions (which are still lying in the building) and have had to stay with relatives. They now live in one of the bare shell flats allotted to them by the society.

Grover now wants the government and the builder to work out a solution because the residents are desperately looking for closure.

Grover and other owners of Tower D are currently living either in flats the developer allotted to them in the condominium itself, or in rented flats outside, the Chintels Paradiso Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA) said. Most residents are waiting for the final decision on the compensation, which has to be taken by the district administration, which is perusing the latest evaluation report submitted on January 23.

In November last year, the Gurugram district administration recommended that Tower D should be demolished as IIT-Delhi deemed the building unsafe after a structural audit. The district administration also said that it will announce the final compensation amount for the owners of Tower D flats. On January 17, Central Bureau of Investigation began a probe into the collapse of the flats. The flat owners of Tower D, the RWA, and other residents of the condominium, however, are not impressed by the action taken by the authorities and allege that the state government is too slow in taking action against the developer.The district administration had got two cases registered against the developer at Bajghera police station last year and on January 17, CBI registered a fresh case against the developer and booked Ashok Solomon, managing director of group under Section 304A and sections pertaining to cheating, causing grievous hurt, dishonestly inducing delivery of property, criminal conspiracy and mischief of the Indian Penal Code.

A spokesperson for Chintels Developers, when contacted, said they “have full confidence in the investigation by CBI and are sure they will conduct a fair investigation”.

According to the RWA, the method of assessing the value of flats is incorrect and will lead to owners having to bear fiscal loss. Some owners say they feel abandoned by the authorities. They say instead of monetary compensation, they want the entire condominium to be reconstructed.

“With no compensation being announced yet, we have now decided to demand that the flats be reconstructed and handed over to owners,” said Sandeep Barsayain, a flat owner in the condominium.

However, a large majority want the matter to be closed at the earliest so they can buy a house elsewhere.

A spokesperson for Chintels Developers said that immediately after the incident, they relocated the affected families and paid them 20,000 each. “Thereafter, we have been paying rent for approximately 50 families and continue to do so till this day. The average rent is around 40,000 per month per apartment, which we continue to pay even now. Also since very few people are paying maintenance charges, we are paying the shortfall which is approximately 25 lakh per month,” the spokesperson said.

Several buyers say that they just can’t shake off the trauma. “We want the government to ensure that people get their flats or money back so that they can move on with their lives. Right now we are stuck at the crossroads,” Mahanoori said.

Vijay Bhardwaj, a stockbroker who spent all his savings to buy a flat in Tower D, said that he and his family are so disturbed by the incident that despite getting a rent-free flat in the complex, they prefer to live in Dwarka. At the time of the incident, Bhardwaj said, his son was on his way down from their 17th-floor flat. When he exited the lift, he heard an explosion and saw tall plumes of dust. He ran to the next tower and called the family.

“He told us the tower was crashing. My wife and other son rushed downstairs. We were saved in the nick of time.”

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